In 2011, if you lost yourself in drink and the dark corners of evening, you would have noticed above all else that Los Angeles was relishing extremes. New places popped up like crazy, reflecting appetites high and low. In a year when the rich got richer and everyone else hung on, madly expensive bottle-service clubs sprouted alongside humble drinking dens with recession-friendly prices.
If boozers were into protesting, the 99% hanging around at places such as mixology-master Aidan Demarest’s new straight-up liquor bar, Neat, or the recently renovated rocker-dive Three Clubs on Santa Monica and Vine would have occupied the luxe, nouveau Roxbury in Hollywood (yes, that Roxbury), where high-rollers known as “whales” lay down thousands of dollars a night for the right to a private booth and a model-quality server.
But those weren’t the only big changes in the dynamic Year of the Metal Rabbit:
A year of extremes
Besides the re-imagined Roxbury, other extravagant debuts included a posh new European-style clubbing destination in traditionally staid Beverly Hills called Confidential Lounge; the Beverly, which traffics in exclusivity by being open only two nights per week; and Universal CityWalk’s upscale Infusion Lounge. On the opposite end of the spectrum were a slew of sleek but comfortable respites from the club scene with intentionally dog-eared edges, including the aforementioned Neat bar where Demarest serves uncut spirits alongside a simple glass of beer or soda; the tame and literary-minded Writer’s Room in Hollywood; the loud but boho-lax former pop-up bar Paul & Andre, which migrated from Hollywood to permanent digs in the Standard on the Sunset Strip; the classy but mellow bar at Il Covo, nightlife legend Sean MacPherson and partner Jared Meisler’s new Italian restaurant on 3rd Street; and the friendly neighborhood comeback of Revolver, the legendary gay video bar in WeHo.
Craft beer was the beverage of choice in 2011 as drinkers dashed to the taps at Tony Yanow’s epically busy Mohawk Bend in Echo Park, with its more than 65 California beers on draft. Yanow also opened a craft brewery in Atwater Village called Golden Road Brewing, shortly after Michael Bowe brought his Angel City Brewing to downtown L.A. from Torrance. The thriving beer-crawl culture flocked to a roving pop-up beer garden called CoLAboration and to the frenzied L.A. Craft Beer Crawl, which offered more than 50 brews at seven bars in downtown L.A.
It’s a eat-dog-eat world
Move over meat patties — L.A. was dog crazy in 2011. We’ve always had Pink’s, but this year, New York legend Papaya King laid down roots in Tinsel Town; the Dog Haus Biergarten brought supersized wieners smothered in unique toppings to Old Pasadena; Coney Dog sopped up the beer on the Sunset Strip with its addictive Detroit-style dogs; and a host of German-style sausage hangs including Wirtshaus, Steingarten L.A., Berlin Currywurst in Silver Lake, Currywurst on Fairfax and Wurstküche Venice began slinging sustenance to hungry crowds with Weimar Berlin-sized appetites for vice.
In the spring, entrepreneur Sam Nazarian became the most powerful operator of clubs on the West Coast when his company SBE acquired its biggest rival, David Judaken’s Syndicate Hospitality. With the purchase, Nazarian nearly doubled his nightlife holdings, topping out at 12 venues, adding MyStudio, MyHouse, Eden and Crimson/Opera, all based in Hollywood, in a portfolio that includes popular venues such as the Colony, Industry and the Abbey. Shortly after that, SBE went on to open one of the year’s best private music venues, the Sayers Club, helmed by the ever-inventive nightlife director Jason Scoppa; and the Library lounge in Nazarian’s already buzzing Redbury hotel.
Dance, dance revolution
2011 was the Year of the DJ, as dance music crescendoed in mainstream America, with favorite L.A. neighbor Las Vegas leading the way as an emerging dance music capital. The opening of the trendy Cosmopolitan Hotel on the Vegas Strip, with its club Marquee built as an ode to the DJ experience, signaled the dawning of an era where top DJs, including Tiësto, Deadmau5 and David Guetta pulled in hundreds-of-thousands of dollars per night; a single Tweet from Kaskade incited a riot in Hollywood; and Swedish House Mafia sold out Madison Square Garden in nine minutes flat.
Downtown L.A.'s emergence as a bar mecca continued its steady forward march with inventive new bars in gorgeous old spaces helmed by imaginative nightlife players including Cedd Moses, who is part of a new group called Bottomless LLC that opened the deliciously divey Monty in Westlake, and Dana Hollister, who re-imagined Bordello bar as the old-school carnival-themed One-Eyed Gypsy. Other notable arrivals include the boldly decorated Salvage bar on 7th Street and Mas Malo’s subterranean south-of-the-border retreat.
Mixology madness, which had every bar in L.A. vying to make the most elaborate foam, float or syrup, turned a gentle, more-seasoned corner in 2011. Female mixologists including Tricia Alley, Naomi Schimek and Zahra Bates rose to the top of a pool of elites who were refining their art, including stand-out star Julian Cox, who created the drink lists at three of this year’s hottest new restaurants: John Sedlar’s Playa; Ricardo Zarate’s Peruvian pleasure palace Picca; and Nancy Silverton and the late Amy Pressman’s Short Order.